Why YOU Should Keep a Coaching Log

CoachingLog

If you’ve been training for any period of time, chances are you’ve kept a training log at some point in your career.

A training log is an invaluable tool, because it goes a step further than then typical tracking of sets, reps, etc.

Instead, a training log digs deeper into each training session.

  • What was your energy level like in the gym?
  • How did the weights feel? Heavy? Light?
  • What was your technique like?
  • And what things do you need to remember or work on next time with regards to technique?

These are just a few examples of things you can record, because a training log is something that will help you track the little things that get you results.

But here’s something that I think is every bit as valuable, if you’re a coach…

Enter the Coaching Log

A coaching log is like a training log, only you write in it after your training sessions with your athletes.

  • How did John’s training session go today?
  • What is Susan doing well in her lifting technique
  • How did you finally break the ice when chatting with Lamar?

A coaching log is a simple way for you to debrief after every training session. It helps you not only better understand your athletes, but yourself as well.

I’m a little ashamed to say this, but I didn’t start keeping a coaching log until 2013 when I trained Roy Hibbert.

If we’re being transparent, I was nervous as f*** when I started training Roy.

The obvious elephant in the room is that he makes a ton of money, and the last thing I wanted to do was screw him up.

Training him was a huge deal because he was not only the highest profile pro athlete I’d ever trained, but he essentially what as poster boy for our training here at IFAST. Quite simply, there was no way I could let him fail.

Training Roy was a challenge, though, mostly due to his height. Everyday exercises like lunges, squats, and even trap bar deadlifts were more difficult for him to manage than most.

So after putting together his first training block, I made it a habit to take 2-3 minutes after every session and write down what we did with him that day.

Quite simply, I wanted to leave nothing to chance.

So the next question becomes, what do you put in your coaching log?

Here are some thoughts that might help you out!

Developing Your Coaching Log

Your coaching log, much like a training log, is a unique and individual tool.

In my coaching log, for instance, I’ll often jot down a few things:

  • The weights I used,
  • How the weights felt that day, based on an RPE scale,
  • Whether I should go up, down and stay the same the following week,
  • A rating of my technique, and perhaps most importantly
  • What technical things I need to work on, and cues or thoughts to help me improve upon them.

Now there’s other stuff I could track, but that’s what works for me.

And that’s an important goal here – you have to figure out what works for you.

With regards to the coaching log, here are some things you might want to start tracking.

Sets and Reps

With all our athletes, we’re trying to “crack the code” to see what makes them tick.

More specifically, we’re always trying to give them a more optimal program.

While I’ll typically track and log all of the sets and reps on their training program, if I feel I need to change something going forward, I will note this in my coaching log.

Coaching Cues

This is one of the most critical aspects of the coaching log: Tracking the coaching cues that each athlete responds best to.

If you’re coaching acceleration, many cues might work:

  • Big/aggressive arms,
  • Push the Earth away,
  • Break the glass with your knees.

But inevitably, not every cue works the same with every athlete!

Just like we want to figure out what set/rep scheme works best for each individual athlete, we also want to find out what cues work best for a client as well!

What’s really cool here is the evolution of how your cues will shift over time.

At the beginning, it may be broad and general cues like make the arrow on push-ups or feel the whole foot.

But the longer you work with an athlete, and they better they move, the more specific and individualized your cues will become.

Keeping track of this over time will be an invaluable tool for both yourself, as well as your athletes.

General Training Thoughts

In this section, I like to highlight general thoughts about how the athlete is responding to the training.

  • Am I loading them too much? Or perhaps, not enough?
  • Am I progressing them too slowly? Or perhaps, not fast enough?
  • Is the training fun/engaging?
  • Are they improving?

Again, this is just a general area to brain dump. This could also give you some time and space to flesh out what you think this athlete needs going forward, so that you can write better subsequent programs on the back end.

Personal Notes and Thoughts

Last but not least, this is where I like to jot down thoughts on the human being standing in front of me.

I’ve mentioned this many times, but we are in the people business.

And if you’re not making a connection with the person standing in front of you, you’re going to struggle to achieve the level of success you desire.

This area is simple – anything that the athlete brings up that could work as a talking or connection point will be noted:

  • Their favorite artists (or what they’re listening to these days),
  • What they enjoy doing in their free time,
  • Major life events (i.e. having a child, death in the family, etc.)

As much as I enjoy training athletes, I also realize that I can’t do my job if I don’t effectively connect and communicate with them.

Make sure to throw this section in your coaching log – I guarantee it will pay off down the line!

How To Get Started with a Coaching Log

After reading this, some people may be thinking:

“Damn Mike – that’s a lot of work! There’s no way I can do that…”

Which, of course, is absolutley not the case.

In fact, I’m going to make this so simple that you can start doing it TODAY (or in the next two days if you have Amazon Prime)!

Here’s what you need to do:

1. Commit to the habit of keeping a coaching log. Tell yourself how valuable it will be to both your and your athletes.

And don’t be afraid to print this article off and re-read it a few times along the way if you need motivation.

2. Pick up a coaching log. I really like moleskin style notebooks, as they just feel nice when you write in them.

(And yes, I’m prepared to be ridiculed for giving an emotive answer to this, but I think writing in a nice journal is a critical way to cement your thoughts. )

At the very least, write it down on your standard yellow legal pad. It’s better than nothing!

3. Place the coaching log on your desk. At the end of every training day (or ideally, after every training session), take 5-10 minutes to debrief on all the athletes you trained.

Either use the ideas I outlined above (sets and reps, coaching cues, general thoughts, etc.) or come up with your own.

Again, that’s what’s most important here – to start jotting down and tracking the things that will help you better coach your athletes.

Now here’s a really important thing you have to do:

The coaching log has to be visible and present for you to actually use it.

HabitLoopPut it smack dab in the middle of your desk.

Throw your keys on top of it as a reminder.

Or put it on your car seat so you can do it before you leave.

If you’ve read the book Habit by Charles Duhigg, you know that he’s big on cuing and reminding yourself when building a new habit.

That cue will drive your routine/habit (i.e. writing in your journal), which should lead to the rewards of better training sessions and programs for your athletes.

Summary

A coaching log is a simple yet highly effective tool that can make any coach better.

Whether you’re just getting started in the industry or you’ve been coaching athletes for 30 years, this seemingly little tool can take your coaching to the next level.

Commit to keeping a coaching log today, and I guarantee your athletes will reap the rewards for many years to come!

All the best

MR

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3 Comments

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  1. Hey Mike great article. Any resources you recommend for becoming a more effective communicator and making better connections with your athletes/clients?

  2. Hi Mike, excellent article. Do you have log book for each client or one log book but divided up into sections?
    Thanks
    Scott

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